Even before the Men’s U20 Tournament, which is taking place in Maribor, the men from Czech Republic were considered the tournament favorites. The medal holders from the last U18 European Championship confirmed this role on the first playing day by winning without a lost set (3:0) and relatively easy against their peers from Israel. In the evening hours, they proved their quality again versus Hungary, although not as convincing as they might have hoped. The first set belonged to the Hungarians, especially because of a better performance on the defensive end. The second and the third set were very close and ended with the Hungarians scoring 23 points in each. The Czechs rejoiced, however Hungary showed that even the favorites are vulnerable and that there could be lots of uncertainty about the final classification all the way to the end of the last match.
Israel, who lost in the afternoon against the Czech Republic, to the surprise of everyone defeated the the home team from Slovenia in the opening match of the tournament. Slovenia, who is playing without their standout Rok Mozic, who joined the senior national team, won fairly easy the first set, however experienced a drop in their game in the second set after their outside hitter Klemen Šen injured his ankle. Their opponent used this to their advantage and ended up winning the match with a score of 2:1.
With the same score (2:1) Hungary celebrated against the Austrians. Hungary lead the way especially with their serve, as they scored ten direct points and the same amount of errors, while their western neighbors committed sixteen errors alongside only three service aces. Slovakia commandingly took a 2:0 lead against Croatia, which meant that the third set won by Croatia was no longer decisive for determining the winner. Despite the poor serve-reception, the Slovakian volleyball players were significantly more efficient in the attack and block with their best player Michal Trubac scoring 13 points. However, in their second game, Slovakia was outplayed and had to congratulate the tournament hosts. This time, the Slovenians did not allow a surprise and won 3:0, with Rok Bracko leading the way with 15 points.
In the last match Austria fell short to Croatia with a score of 1:2. The difference was mainly in the serve and serve-reception. The Croatian team scored 13 direct points with the serve and made only three reception errors. At the same time, they made five serve mistakes less than their peers from Austria, which was a key reason for their success.
At the end of the day, only the Czech Republic remained unbeaten, five teams won one match, and only Austria stayed without a win, but with two won sets proving to be completely competitive with the rest of the field.
Photo Credit: Draš Šport